I’ve been listening to a lot of Kpop lately, and I don’t think there were this many summer-themed EPs released last year. I enjoyed a lot of the recent comebacks this summer, so here are some reviews and recommendations if you are looking for some sugary, bubblegum tracks injected into your ears in this exhausting hot weather (well, it depends on where you live), or you are just looking for pop tunes to listen to.
GFriend- Sunny Summer (Fav tracks: Sunny Summer, Vacation, Sweety)
Coming off from their Time for the Moon Night comeback, a really dramatic and beautiful title track that made me get into their music again- GFriend shifted their gears from their emotional, nostalgic-driven sound to a more bubbly and ‘sunny’ sound in their latest EP. This might be the first EP they have released where I came away liking more than half the tracklisting on my first couple of listens. The title track, Sunny Summer, kicks off with a really funky and bubbly percussion lead that gets layered with some brass- immediately, the song takes a fast rhythm and it pretty much carries on with throughout the rest of the song. The vocals on this track are equally playful and match the tone of the track- I was pretty surprised with this change in their sound at first, but it grew on me quickly with another listen. Yeah- I noticed the wordplay with the member names in the lyrics- it’s a neat touch. The MV looks good too, with an interesting choice of toning down the saturation in the color grading (making it look sun-washed) and adding a retro filter when the girls are just hanging out and messing around with each other. Surprisingly, the choreography for this song doesn’t look as tightly timed and sophisticated as their previous title tracks.
Vacation carries on with the bright production, this time the percussions are more laid-back, the brass isn’t as loud and energetic; the saccharine (and sort of bouncy) vocal melodies during the verse and the chorus make this a catchy track. Sweety adds some dimensionality to its bright, sugary and bubbly production with some cool samples that fizz in and fizz out here and there- I always like a synthpop track saturated with different samples that make the track sound fresher each time I listen to it. Hell, there are even vocal glitch-outs that make this a really fun listen. This is probably my favorite cut from this EP.
Windy Windy brings back the trademark sound of GFriend, while still keeping those bright synths. The chorus particularly hits that emotional feel that GFriend’s choruses are known for, and of course, Yuju’s beautiful high notes are also there… for me, this is a perfectly ok song, just not one I’m excited for in this EP. Love in the Air also sounds like a normal GFriend track, except it’s missing the energy here, and the instrumentation sounds flat- wouldn’t mind calling this the most underwhelming track. Overall, it’s a new avenue for GFriend to explore in, and I am glad Source Music took that risk.
MAMAMOO- Red Moon (Fav tracks: Egoistic, Rainy Season, Sleep in the Car, Selfish)
Continuing on with their “4 seasons, 4 colors” theme, Mamamoo has dropped a pretty diverse tracklist in this EP. I found their previous EP- Yellow Flower– pretty alright with a somewhat underwhelming lead single, but they really stepped up their game in this release. Even though, sonically, they are all over the place (in a good way)- the production on the tracks are really pristine, especially the lead single Egoistic. The mixing with the Spanish guitars and the synths here- it sounds really good. The vocals are sound on point and Moonbyul’s rap verse at the beginning is the best part of the song, besides the chorus. The sun-drenched, orange look of the MV, juxtaposed with the ladies’ (especially Hwasa and Solar) is-this-safe levels of sensuality brings out one of the best looking visuals I’ve seen in a Mamamoo MV in a while.
The opening track, Midnight Summer Dream is a winding-up song driven by what sounds like a ringtone synth. Sounds a bit monotonous but it’s short enough and serves as a nice intro. The third track, Rainy Season is a winding-down moment in the EP with some introspective yet mellow tones in the vocals… even though the song is about a breakup; because it’s in Korean and I don’t understand it- I listen to this as a chill-out song. Sky! Sky! is a really weird song that sounds like an emotive song with some nostalgic strings playing during the chorus. But then, there’s a weird house-like synth during the intermission from the chorus, and then it breaks down for a Moonbyul rap verse and the sound changes again. Yet, I still don’t mind the way it sounds, the sonic whiplashes aren’t that harsh… I guess.
Sleep in the Car brings back the playful and “beagle-y” rap flows (similar to 1cm and Aze-gag) that I always want in a Mamamoo EP. And this track delivers that pretty well, I love the instrumental brass section coupled with some hard vocal delivery… I wish the instrumentals would sound a bit more fuller and louder. The song’s apparently about getting somebody’s makeup ruined when sleeping in a car and being angry about that- that’s something ultra-specific to sing about, but the track slaps. Selfish is the final track, this a track off from Moonbyul’s solo EP- which features three cool K-RnB cuts, I recommend you check that EP out. I really enjoy this pleasant, relaxing track, and Seulgi’s feature is pretty cool. That’s it… it’s a really pristine and breezy sounding song. So overall, a nice EP- an EP that really doesn’t have a single bad-sounding track.
Red Velvet- Summer Magic (Power Up, Mr. E, Mosquito, Hit That Drum, Blue Lemonade)
Red Velvet’s been having a great run since their album drop last November and the subsequent RnB bop Bad Boy, and then, of course, their Japanese debut with Cookie Jar (which I am yet to listen to the full EP). And this summer comeback is no exception to that trend in my eyes (and ears). Red Velvet and their production team are still putting out some of the freshest music Kpop has to offer right now, and with this EP- they have released some experimental yet saccharine and catchy tracks. Power Up didn’t hook me in on my first listen because of the weird layering of their vocals. But the 8-bit samples and the thumpy percussion synths instrumental won me over. Red Velvet also brings back some of their weird catchiness with that ‘banana’ chorus. The MV is a huge step up from their last summer comeback (Red Flavor), production design-wise, at least.
With You isn’t a bad song, but sonically, it’s kind of stagnant when compared to the rest of the EP… and I find the rattling high-hats during the chorus a bit too loud and distracting. Mr. E (obviously a word-play on mystery) opens with some bird-chirping samples and jungle beat which then dissolves into bubblegummy synths- but the transition actually sounds smoother than it reads. The bridge section with some chirp-like vocal interjections sounds good, too. Mosquito has my favorite instrumental section from the EP, I love that high-pitched melodic synth and some of those other playfully sinister sounding samples that play in and out throughout the song- it constantly shape-shifts throughout, and coupled with the adaptive vocals, it’s another earworm.
Hit That Drum takes the dissonant synths from Mosquito and turns up their loudness and distortion to introduce some noise pop influences in the instrumental mix. The acoustic-sounding percussion along with the dance-inducing vocal delivery reminds me of Bollywood music. Blue Lemonade strips down the high-pitch of ‘regular’ tropical house trends- which is a good thing, I’ve gotten exhausted with the recent influx of tropical house influences in Kpop. The fizzy rattling high-hats are drowned with some bubbly bass and some fruity synths. The fruitiness of the song is further elevated with the ladies’ saccharine vocal deliveries- it’s pure fruity ear candy. The EP closes with a bonus track- the English version of Bad Boy that surprised everybody at a KCON performance in June. It sounds as good as the original, and the lyrics aren’t as corny as I thought it would be. So overall, a really solid EP- hope the producers working in Red Velvet make some more experimental instrumentals in their next release.
I said I would talk about just EPs but I felt like I got to share these tracks, they are nice:
Twice- Dance the Night Away, Chillax
I have fallen out of love with Twice for the past year, since their Signal release, but this minimally yet carefully arranged song is like a breath of fresh air. I really enjoy the thick, round, EDM-influenced bass and the melodic brass during the chorus. It’s a very focused song, melodically, at least- and that’s something new for Twice, as far as their title tracks go. The MV looks extra fresh too, and the choreography matches the danciness of the track. Chillax brings back the sing-talky parts of Twice but the bright and sugary backing track that sonically shape-shifts throughout the song makes the track enjoyable.
Crush- Cereal (feat. ZICO)
Really dig this chilled RnB cut, it sounds like a really nice morning song. Zico’s rap verses here fit into the instrumental flow of the track like… like… cereal in milk.
*Applause breaks out for Rodrovich as he makes that extremely witty remark. He balls up his fists- I finally did it, mom.*
Love the thick sub-bass and the anthemic dance breakdown during the chorus. I never heard any of his solo-work before, but now I am interested in checking out his new album soon.
Elris- Will be Mine
I haven’t given the EP a proper listen through to write definitively about it- I gave a few listen through the whole EP and it’s alright- but I really enjoy the second track in that mini-album. It starts with a bouncy, round bass synth, then it settles into a nice saccharine groove. It’s like a bubblegum parade.
ZICO- SoulMate (Feat. IU)
A nice, warm ballad pop that features IU’s ever so smooth and luscious vocal delivery. There are also some nice jazzy touches to the track. I could do without that sudden outburst of Zico’s rap verses in the middle.
Misako Uno- Summer Mermaid
Not a Kpop artist but this is a solo single from a member of the Jpop group AAA. I enjoyed both songs from this release. The title track features some fresh oceanic samples, and the mixing of the different samples and instruments in this track is really beautiful and uplifting to listen to. The B-side, Just a game, is a beat-driven synth pop topped with some pleasant guitar strums to make the track pleasant to listen to in its way.
That’s it for this post. Have a good day. I apologize for the over-saturation of youtube links.